Henkel improves livelihood of 34,000 oil palm farmers

In 2015, Henkel set itself the ambitious target to increase the available sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil on the market by a volume equal to their global demand through supporting smallholder farmers. To achieve their target, the consumer goods company has been working in a strategic partnership with the development organisation Solidaridad since 2012. They collaborate to enable oil palm smallholder farmers to improve their agricultural practices for better yields and sustainable production and to support them getting certified under the “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil” (RSPO) scheme. To date, approximately 34,000 oil palm smallholder farmers have been reached on about 305,000 hectares under cultivation across seven palm oil regions.

Connecting smallholder engagement to company targets

The multinational company set itself three ambitious targets to achieve by the end of 2020: First, to cover 100% of their palm oil and palm kernel oil demand with certified oils. Second, to be able to trace all their palm products back to mills and plantation levels. And third – what makes Henkel a real frontrunner in the sustainable palm oil market – to increase the availability of sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil on the market by a volume equal to their global demand. In 2020 this was 110,000 tons. This way they cover their entire volume of sustainable palm oil twice and they integrate their smallholder engagement into the company’s targets. 

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Reaching 34,000 smallholders on 305,000 hectares

In collaboration with Solidaridad, Henkel supports projects that enable oil palm smallholders to increase crop productivity, to certify their production as sustainable, and to improve their livelihood. Over the past nine years, this partnership has reached 34,000 smallholders on about 305,000 hectares under cultivation across seven countries: Colombia, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Nigeria.

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Examples from Honduras, Colombia and Indonesia

For example, the project in Honduras supported 17,500 smallholders and workers through a training programme to improve farming practices and comply with RSPO certification criteria, which led to a 25% average yield increase and a production of 500,000 tons of sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil. In Colombia, Henkel and Solidaridad piloted the digital platform Farming Solutions to empower farmers to increase their productivity, reduce environmental impact and move towards certified palm oil. Most recently, a programme in Indonesia aims to get 500 independent smallholders RSPO certified in 2021. A key achievement in 2020 was the awarding of Indonesia’s Plantation Registration Letter to 140 farmers as an important requirement for certification.

Sustainable Palm Oil smallholder farmer Honduras

Driving tangible progress along the value chain

“These projects are impressive demonstrations of the impact of programmes that enable smallholders to increase productivity on their plantations while at the same time contributing to improving their living conditions. Together, by supporting local partners and initiatives, we drive tangible progress along the value chain.”

Christine Schneider, Global Sustainability Manager Laundry & Home Care

Through their efforts in various projects, Henkel achieved their target to cover their own demand already in 2016, three years ahead of schedule. 

palm oil smallholder farmer in Colombia

Ambitious plans for the future

In the future, Henkel aims to make their partnership with Solidaridad on smallholder initiatives even more tangible by connecting the smallholder volumes to their own supply chain. A main obstacle to achieve this is the complexity of derivative supply chains and getting smallholder supply RSPO certified. To overcome these challenges, Henkel will strengthen their collaboration with their own suppliers and continue with the projects with Solidaridad. For the period of 2021-2025, farmer capacity building, climate-smart agriculture, integrated landscape management and forest conservation will play key roles.

Female palm oil smallholder farmer in Nigeria